Radio Raheem on What It’s Like to Play for Runners

Best Race: Rock n Roll Marathon

The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon pairs running with live music every year from the Space Needle to Columbia City. Why is it so awesome? Don’t ask a runner, ask a band.

What’s it like to play to an audience on the run? For two-time marathon performer Radio Raheem, it’s actually kind of ideal. “In many ways, you could say, it is the perfect Radio Raheem audience,” says guitarist Bryan Cohen, who describes the 5-year-old Seattle band as “Talking Heads meets Tina Turner” with “a lot of soul bits thrown in there, and definitely a big nod to dance rock.” Their new album, Time Code Exile, released in July, spotlights lead singer Josephine Howell, whose voice is a gospel-glam powerhouse; the album’s single, “2 Live for the City,” is a rollicking ’80s throwback and totally infectious, a good candidate for “the jam of the summer.”

“Our deal is, we want people to move—that’s the whole plan,” he says. Hence the band’s unbridled enthusiasm for an audience that’s already moving. For this year’s edition of the race, Radio Raheem was staged at the midpoint, where runners had churned through a bunch of miles and were turning the corner to power back the other direction. “Anyone who needed a midpoint pick-me-up,” he laughs, “We definitely delivered on the midpoint.” Band members jumped out to give runners high-fives, for instance; they’d call out “WE LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!!” to the ones dressed like Captain America or all in neon and “YOU’RE DOING GREAT!!” to everyone else. And the runners, Cohen says, would definitely do a little shimmy on their way, or “throw up rock horns quite a bit.” Family and friends of the runners also came out to cheer and groove from the sidelines. The marathon is “such a cool event, with such a cool community vibe,” Cohen says. “I think we were all glad to be a part of it.”

Although the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon is SW readers’ favorite, it isn’t just a Seattle thing; the race travels to 30 cities across the globe and dubs itself “The World’s Largest Running Series” with over 500,000 participants annually. For the uninitiated, Cohen describes it in simple terms: “It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going on a run. Hey, I’m going to a party. Hey, I’m going to a running party.’ To the extent a sporting event can have a party vibe,” he says, that’s what the thing is all about.

You can catch Radio Raheem next at Seafair in Genesee Park on August 5. And, most likely, at another Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. Given the chance, Cohen says, they’d play it again in a heartbeat. “Absolutely! We love playing it—love it, love it.”

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